INPUD Statement for International Drug Users’ Day, 1st November 2013

The international drug users' movement welcomes the introduction over recent years of a human rights discourse into discussions about drug law reform, harm reduction and public health, and the clear delineation of the systemic relations between global punitive prohibition and the grotesque violations of the rights of people who use drugs. However, on this, International Drug Users' Day, the International Network of People who Use Drugs wants to push this discourse one step further and affirm the positive right of people to use the drugs of their choice without the undue interference of police, judicial, and medical authorities. This right is implied most clearly by those to privacy, bodily integrity, and the right not to be discriminated against.

The international drug users' movement welcomes the introduction over recent years of a human rights discourse into discussions about drug law reform, harm reduction and public health, and the clear delineation of the systemic relations between global punitive prohibition and the grotesque violations of the rights of people who use drugs. However, on this, International Drug Users' Day, the International Network of People who Use Drugs wants to push this discourse one step further and affirm the positive right of people to use the drugs of their choice without the undue interference of police, judicial, and medical authorities. This right is implied most clearly by those to privacy, bodily integrity, and the right not to be discriminated against.

For too long, human rights discourse has largely ignored this thorny issue, and has focused to great effect on the egregious human rights violations rained down upon people simply on the basis that they choose to use drugs whose usage is deemed unacceptable subsequent to the passage of the three global conventions that together comprise global prohibition. The range of such abuses is vast, systemic and grotesque, and includes abrogations of the right to vote, of the right to liberty, to privacy, to physical and mental integrity, to freedom from cruel and inhuman treatment, to freedom from involuntary medical procedures, to be free from discrimination, and to the highest attainable standard of health. Repressive drug laws also jeopardise the right to safety by denying people access to drugs of known quality, quantity, and purity, thus exposing us to the risk of overdose, poisoning and infection, as well as to sterile means of administering injectable drugs. These systemic rights abuses driven by a globally repressive legal environment of varying degrees of viciousness has included torture, forced treatment, police shakedowns and violence, arbitrary mass incarceration and detention, the denial of access to medical services (most notably denial of the right to access treatment for HCV and HIV), and the denial of access to harm reduction services. Harsh drug laws jeopardise the right to family life by denying drug using parents access to their children, and in some countries people, especially women, known to be users of illegal drugs have been forcefully sterilised. These violations driven by a combination of puritanical moralism, racism, sexism, and the biopolitical imperative of governments to exert control over, and discipline, the bodies of their citizens, has created a world in which people who use, and in particular who inject, drugs are massively, disproportionately affected by blood borne viruses, most notably HIV and HCV. These violations are not glitches in the system of drug control, nor the actions of a few 'rogue' enforcement agents, rather they are constitutive of, and directly entailed by, prohibition.

People who use currently illegal drugs have been labelled immoral, criminal, and sick, often a combination of all three at the same time. We have been moralised over, criminalised and pathologised. On this International Drug Users' Day, we say enough. On this International Drug Users' Day we assert the right to bodily integrity, and to privacy, we reclaim control over our bodies and minds and assert the right of consenting adults to use whatever drugs they choose, whether it be for pleasure, to self-medicate, to enhance performance, to alter consciousness  or to provide some succour and relief from hard lives, we insist that as adults that right is ours. We defend the right of adults to use their drugs of choice in their homes without causing harm or nuisance to others, and to carry them in public without fear of police harassment, abuse and intimidation.

The use of consciousness altering drugs is an integral part of the human experience, common to all cultures throughout history, as such drug use is neither bad, mad, nor sick, it should not, and need not, be a crime. The use of currently illegal drugs is not a sign of moral depravity, a character fault, a marker of criminal tendencies, or of pathology, it is no more and no less than one aspect of what it is to be human, a part of the diversity of human experience. Doug Husak, one of the few academics to have seriously looked at this issue concludes in his book Drugs and Rights that " the arguments in favour of believing that adults have a moral right to use drugs recreationally are more persuasive than the arguments on the other side" he continues that those of us who reject the war on drugs, which is in reality a war on people who use drugs, "should be described as endorsing a pro-choice position on recreational drug use".

To assert and defend this implied right to use drugs INPUD will be launching a 'Charter of the Rights of People who Use Drugs' laying out the basic rights to which we, like all other members of the human family are entitled. This charter will be prefaced by a detailed exposition of the multiple areas of life in which the rights of people who use drugs are violated, simply on the basis of what drugs we choose to use.

Drug use = my choice!

Abstinence = your choice.

Prohibition = no choice!

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More information: Protecting rights to ensure health: International Drug Users Day 2013.

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